Interventions for supporting pregnant women's decision-making about mode of birth after a caesarean

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jul 30;(7):CD010041. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010041.pub2.


Background: Pregnant women who have previously had a caesarean birth and who have no contraindication for vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) may need to decide whether to choose between a repeat caesarean birth or to commence labour with the intention of achieving a VBAC. Women need information about their options and interventions designed to support decision-making may be helpful. Decision support interventions can be implemented independently, or shared with health professionals during clinical encounters or used in mediated social encounters with others, such as telephone decision coaching services. Decision support interventions can include decision aids, one-on-one counselling, group information or support sessions and decision protocols or algorithms. This review considers any decision support intervention for pregnant women making birth choices after a previous caesarean birth.

Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of interventions to support decision-making about vaginal birth after a caesarean birth.Secondary objectives are to identify issues related to the acceptability of any interventions to parents and the feasibility of their implementation.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 June 2013), Current Controlled Trials (22 July 2013), the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform Search Portal (ICTRP) (22 July 2013) and reference lists of retrieved articles. We also conducted citation searches of included studies to identify possible concurrent qualitative studies.

Selection criteria: All published, unpublished, and ongoing randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-randomised trials with reported data of any intervention designed to support pregnant women who have previously had a caesarean birth make decisions about their options for birth. Studies using a cluster-randomised design were eligible for inclusion but none were identified. Studies using a cross-over design were not eligible for inclusion. Studies published in abstract form only would have been eligible for inclusion if data were able to be extracted.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently applied the selection criteria and carried out data extraction and quality assessment of studies. Data were checked for accuracy. We contacted authors of included trials for additional information. All included interventions were classified as independent, shared or mediated decision supports. Consensus was obtained for classifications. Verification of the final list of included studies was undertaken by three review authors.

Main results: Three randomised controlled trials involving 2270 women from high-income countries were eligible for inclusion in the review. Outcomes were reported for 1280 infants in one study. The interventions assessed in the trials were designed to be used either independently by women or mediated through the involvement of independent support. No studies looked at shared decision supports, that is, interventions designed to facilitate shared decision-making with health professionals during clinical encounters.We found no difference in planned mode of birth: VBAC (risk ratio (RR) 1.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.97 to 1.10; I² = 0%) or caesarean birth (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.10; I² = 0%). The proportion of women unsure about preference did not change (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.20; I² = 0%).There was no difference in adverse outcomes reported between intervention and control groups (one trial, 1275 women/1280 babies): permanent (RR 0.66, 95% CI 0.32 to 1.36); severe (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.36); unclear (0.66, 95% CI 0.27, 1.61). Overall, 64.8% of those indicating preference for VBAC achieved it, while 97.1% of those planning caesarean birth achieved this mode of birth. We found no difference in the proportion of women achieving congruence between preferred and actual mode of birth (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.07) (three trials, 1921 women).More women had caesarean births (57.3%), including 535 women where it was unplanned (42.6% all caesarean deliveries and 24.4% all births). We found no difference in actual mode of birth between groups, (average RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.06) (three trials, 2190 women).Decisional conflict about preferred mode of birth was lower (less uncertainty) for women with decisional support (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.25, 95% CI -0.47 to -0.02; two trials, 787 women; I² = 48%). There was also a significant increase in knowledge among women with decision support compared with those in the control group (SMD 0.74, 95% CI 0.46 to 1.03; two trials, 787 women; I² = 65%). However, there was considerable heterogeneity between the two studies contributing to this outcome ( I² = 65%) and attrition was greater than 15 per cent and the evidence for this outcome is considered to be moderate quality only. There was no difference in satisfaction between women with decision support and those without it (SMD 0.06, 95% CI -0.09 to 0.20; two trials, 797 women; I² = 0%). No study assessed decisional regret or whether women's information needs were met.Qualitative data gathered in interviews with women and health professionals provided information about acceptability of the decision support and its feasibility of implementation. While women liked the decision support there was concern among health professionals about their impact on their time and workload.

Authors' conclusions: Evidence is limited to independent and mediated decision supports. Research is needed on shared decision support interventions for women considering mode of birth in a pregnancy after a caesarean birth to use with their care providers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section, Repeat* / adverse effects
  • Cesarean Section, Repeat* / statistics & numerical data
  • Decision Making*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vaginal Birth after Cesarean* / adverse effects
  • Vaginal Birth after Cesarean* / statistics & numerical data